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Fr Bob Writes – February 1, 2015

The following comes from a commentary by Fr Denny Dempsey 

In our gospel this weekend, we note that Capernaum has become the headquarters of Jesus’ public ministry. A prominent fishing village on the Sea of Galilee with a population of around 1,500, Capernaum was also the home of five of Jesus’ apostles (Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew).

According to archaeological evidence, the town had a long breakwater (waves coming off the lake during big storms could reach eight feet in height) and several piers with moorings for fishing boats. Houses were constructed of black basalt rock commonly found in the region, roughly shaped if worked at all, built into walls using pebbles for leveling the stones, and mortared over with mud. An outside wall would be built enclosing a property and individual rooms constructed inside along the wall around courtyards where they cooked, cared for animals, and planted a few grapevines. Several related families might have lived in such a compound, forming several smaller courtyards and room arrangements within the larger outer wall. The house thought to be Peter’s house, based on archaeological evidence at the site run by Franciscans, was the second such compound in from the sea and breakwater. Simon’s mother-in-law lived there and whatever other family Peter had, including Andrew, as well as families of other relatives or partners in the fishing syndicate. Jesus took up residence there during his time in Capernaum.

The synagogue, the only building in the village from that period with shaped stones, was about 150 feet further up the same street that passed by Peter’s home. In the synagogue service, an official of the synagogue invited someone, usually a guest or noted person if present, to do the reading. That person would then be given the first word in saying what he thought the reading meant. The others present would then enter into the discussion, giving their opinions  on the passage’s meaning. Jewish men were accustomed to quote various rabbis when giving their interpretations. Jesus taught with “authority,” meaning he taught both with power and as the “author” of his interpretation of the meaning of the scripture. Jesus brought that same authority to his action in casting the evil spirit out of the man. Jesus, Son of God, is “author” of all good for us as he was that day in Capernaum.”